Far and away, the most useful tool in my wireless array is a Sony Wavehawk scanner. It will do all things most consumer type scanner will do-police bands, weather, aircraft, etc.- but will also do most of the frequencies used for wireless mics.
I was pretty expensive when I bought it, but it has become an invaluable tool and has paid for itself many times over.
Regrettably, Sony has discontinued it and no other manufacturer has filled the gap.
I originally purchased it soon after it was released (read the announcement) in 1999 to use on a large-scale production of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol . We had more performers than wireless lavs, even though we were using a dozen units.
I had a full-time production assistant who spent the entire show backstage transferring beltpacks, wiring up kids, changing batteries, etc. She was able to use the scanner to listen to each mic backstage as soon as she turned the mic on. It was a great confidence builder for the performer and saved tons of headaches for me.
The Sony Wavehawk has a computer interface and thru a serial port so I was able to program all the frequencies we used and my assistant could simply scroll thru them. She didn’t have to remember any of the frequencies or punch them into the scanner.
The show had a three day out-of-town preview before our two week run at Raleigh’s BTI Center . The night before our load in at the Koger Center at the University of South Carolina I was able to use the scanner in my hotel room to
locate potential problem frequencies that we should avoid that this venue. It really simplified what is a very hectic load in.
I have also been able to use the Sony Wavehawk as a last minute backup for a failed receiver. Using the headphone output of the scanner plugged directly into an input of a mixer, I was able to tune the scanner to the frequency of the receiver that had failed. It got me out of a really tight spot.
Want to know more? Here are the scanner specs.
As I said before, Sony has discontinued this incredibly handy tool, but they do occasionally turn up on Ebay. There’s one there right now.
-Jeff Harrison is a sound person and special event producer who lives in works in Chapel Hill, NC. His most recent work includes producing professional school commencement exercises for the University of North Carolina.
He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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